Question asked by: 
Being Together Glasgow, September 2014
Date asked: 
Jun 2015

What are the chances of ovarian cancer spreading to other areas?

What are the chances of ovarian cancer spreading to other areas?
It is an almost impossible question to answer. It's about staging.
Response by Professor Iain McNeish, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology

It is an almost impossible question to answer. It's about staging. When you are first diagnosed you are given a stage and that is how far your cancer has gone. Stage one is cancer that is just in the ovaries. Stage two is cancer that's grown outside the ovary but is in the pelvis. Stage three is cancer that's in the belly and Stage four is cancer that's gone elsewhere. That staging information is fantastically useful because it helps direct our therapy but it also gives us an idea of what is the chance of that cancer coming back. 

Without information about any particular patient and their stage, it is impossible to give information about whether the cancer will come back. It will depend on the stage that the patient was at when they were first diagnosed. Patients with stage one tend, on average, to have a better outlook than the others. However, there are still some women with advanced disease who do very well and that is something that I emphasise a lot to my patients. It is perfectly possible to have advanced ovarian cancer and still have your cancer go away and live a full and normal life for many years. Our problem is it's not always easy at the time of diagnosis to say for certain to any one individual woman that your cancer is going to do better than somebody else's. 

When we first meet you and we talk about the stage, it's important for us because it gives us a broad idea of what your cancer might do. Even for women with stage three and stage four disease, people can respond incredibly well and can have a very good long term outlook.